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Bob Meyer

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Supersplitters Own Three!

More and more U.S. families are opting for a self-described schizophrenic existence, which revolves around living in two or more homes at a time. The term �splitter� is used to differentiate an emerging profile of second-home owners from the more traditional �snowbirds� who tend to divide their time seasonally.

It is estimated by the National Association of Realtors that there are about 44 million second homes, about 7 million private vacation homes, and 37 million investment units.

As a result of a revival of interest in timeshares and the creation of so-called fractional ownership of vacation properties, some homeowners even have a third place. Such changes, coupled with the fact that one-fifth of all households take home 50% of all the money in the U.S., have the potential to move multi-home ownership beyond the confines of the super rich and into the ranks of the �economically comfortable.�

The biggest driver of third-home ownership has been the record-low mortgage-interest rates, coupled with a growing affinity for real estate as a long term investment. Baby-boomers who are not only in their peak earning years, but also flush with equity from their primary residences (purchased decades ago), are looking for a place to put it.

Technology plays a role too, as expanded air routes have put more vacation destinations within reach and telecommuting makes it possible to stretch regular weekends into three- and four-day weekends.

The Urban Land Institute in Washington (DC) questions whether the third home niche will take hold on a long term basis, because the federal tax structure only permits deducting mortgage interest on homes No. 1 and No. 2 if they�re strictly for private use. The expectation is that fewer people will be willing to pay full freight for a third house.